I tried to write the story below in the spring......and then busy-ness got the best of me......and forgetfulness.......that I was working on it at all. :) So, I am posting it now........without editing.........and perhaps in the future will finish it......and, it just ends suddenly. :)
We are about to leave for San Francisco where we will spend two days with the G-Family and get to mass and confession on Sunday and then he will fly out on Monday morning........to Minneapolis-St. Paul........Amsterdam.........and finally Zurich, Switzerland. See you later and thanks for the prayers!
I know most of you know that already.........but, just for posterity's sake, I will write about our journey to the point at which we have now arrived....which is in no way the end, of course........it is barely the beginning, :)
Where to start?
How about the summer before last? That would be the summer of 2007. Matthew, who is the lead character in this story, was 16 years old. He had been having frequent conversations with my sweet friend Sheila........and their conversations were revolving around the Rotary Youth Exchange Program. Sheila had much recent experience with this program due to the fact that her oldest daughter, Katie, was about to leave for Germany for a year. That summer, Matthew was begging me to look into it....but gave me a deadline of "by the end of summer." Well, with only a month to decide if he could apply, and my reluctance to send him out of the country so far away from me........and still not fully recovered from our Star Spangled Adventure......and in the middle of six weeks of play rehearsals for three plays.....I could not let myself look into it. It was overwhelming. He was disappointed.......but apparently not discouraged.
Flash forward one year...summer of 2008. I am now more relaxed. Matthew has been spending time actually doing his research at Rotary International. He is a year older....more wise in his approach. :) Now, he can give me info he has gathered. Now he has Katie's positive experience in Germany, as she returned this same summer. While we were visiting friends in the Sierras, he filled out the form on Rotary International's webpage "requesting further information." He had a hard time reducing his choices of countries to only 3-5. Of course, all of my travel-loving kids would be happy to go anywhere....but where to choose to go for a whole year? Where???
He finally put in order of choice:
He loves history.....really LOVES history.......and he wanted to go immerse himself in European history. Of course, he would be satisfied with any country. He is one of my kids......
He pushed "submit" and sent his request.
About six weeks later, in mid-September, he received a phone call from a gentleman who lives about an hour south of us. They must have spoken on the phone for an hour or more. I found out later that this man is very talkative and he is very enjoyable with which to chat. He gave Matthew some local contact people. I knew both of them, and since one of them, Frank, worked at the hospital....I decided to just drop in to see him one day while he was working. We discussed what Matthew needed to do. He gave me the number of someone to call. He also asked me if I were willing to take in an exchange student from somewhere as part of the deal. I explained that this did not feel like the right time in our lives to do that. Frank said it is kind of assumed that if you are sending a student OUT of your home, you would therefore have room to bring one IN. I informed Frank that I did not even have room for the student I was sending OUT! :)
So, I called the contact given to me by Frank, and it turns out to be the same man who had called Matthew about two months before, by the name of Mark. We talked for an hour and a half. I learned so much information. It was very helpful, and enlightening. He said they were having some trouble with Italy's Youth Exchange.....that France was kind of a "pain" to get into......you have to meet their ambassador and be approved by them, in person........that they discouraged English speaking countries for US citizens...so that left Scotland off the list. The one thing he did not know about was whether Matthew's lack of vaccinations would be a deterrent from his applying. Mark said he was leaving the following weekend to vist Dave, who was in charge of all of Northern California Rotary Youth Exchange, and he was sure Dave would know the answer. In the meantime, Mark wanted me to contact the local Rotary Clubs to see if any would sponsor Matthew to travel. He also said that if we could not find a local club to sponsor Matthew, that he would find him a club, even if he had to go all the way to the Bay Area. He was very enthusiastic and supportive.
By this time, we had already printed off a copy of the lengthy application. It was going to be time-consuming....oh, yes....time-consuming.
So, I checked on the website and got all of the contact names for the three clubs in our county. I called the ones in my town first, but found they were out of town. I tried the town north of us.....and a man said that their club had already turned down someone that week, that they did not have enough funds to sponsor anyone this year. I never even left my name......that will make sense later. So, I finally called the little town south of us...only to find a most amiable and pleasing personage with which to have a pleasant chat. His name was Steve, and he was to be our contact person for the next two months. He asked me to send an email to him, writing about Matthew, so he could tell his club about Matthew. It was a pretty good email, if I do say so myself. :) As Steve is the treasurer for his Rotary Club, he told me their club had enough funds to send Matthew, and later, even two if they wanted. He told me that because someone else in their club knew of a a boy who wanted to go......but that boy never went past "being interested."
Steve also wanted me to try to follow up on the club in my own town to see if they would sponsor Matthew, or share the sponsorship. He said they had not had an exchange student in a good while and he wanted to encourage them. So, I went to see another member of the local club, who I also knew. He said: "When you bring me the application, then we will look at it and see what we think." He was kind of vague and I could see they really did not want to do it. The application is quite lengthy as I said....and it has so many places where you need to put the "sponsoring" club....and I just felt better filling out for someone who wanted to sponsor Matthew.
I called Steve and updated him on how it went with the club in my town. He agreed to just have Matthew send it all to their club and they would sponsor him and he would also talk with the other club himself.
Matthew and I spent a good amount of time filling the form out accurately. A GOOD DEAL!
He needed to have a dental check and papers signed by the dentist. We had his orthodontist take care of that since he had been seeing him since he was one year old. We had to mail one form, have him fill it out........make four copies and then sign each copy in blue ink.
Then, I called our primary MD and they said no adult physicals till February. Well that was not soon enough. So, I asked them to leave a message asking if they could fit him in sooner....they would ask the doctor. The doctor is a friend of mine. In the meantime, I made an appointment with another doctor friend of mine, just to get it done. I got a phone call later that day from our doctor's nurse, Kathy........they said they could see him that week or the next....since he is only 18...........they do not consider him "adult" yet. :) They had openings for "youth physicals" just not for "adults. Actually, I made the phone call two days before his 18th birthday.....so, I guess it could have gone either way. Again, David, the doctor, needed to fill out one form, then copy it and sign all four in blue ink. On the part about vaccinations, David wrote: not had, or something to that effect. But first Matthew needed a TB test before David could sign it. Luckily the nurse said we could come in on that Saturday............
.........and that is where I left off............and here we are now!
Let me know if you need his contact info!